Signal has done the one thing no marketer should ever do

Signal, a cross-platform messaging service, is considered to be one of the primary competitors of both  WhatsApp, another similar messaging platform, and American technology conglomerate Facebook. The main reason behind some people preferring to use Signal over its counterparts is because it is a privacy-friendly messaging app due to its centralised encryption and the fact that it does not attempt to make monetary gains out of user data.

Recently, in a blog post from their official company website, Signal spoke at length about its attempts to run targeted advertisements on Instagram. However, this was rejected by Facebook. They formed a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show users the personal data that Facebook collects about them and sells access to. Facebook did not agree with this idea.

Besides this information, the blog post also consisted of screenshots of – according to Signal – personally targeted ads that users are not likely to come across on Instagram. It also seemingly includes a screenshot of Signal’s Facebook ad account, which is now deactivated.

The fact that Facebook did not agree to broadcast Signal’s ads because they revealed exactly how much information Facebook knows about its users is definitely important. This is suspicious considering the fact that as a company, Facebook’s business model largely revolves around tracking its users’ online activity and monetising that personal information.
This seemed to be another example of how Facebook is trying to keep users from knowing the extent to which they are being tracked. However, in this case, it looks that the entire debacle was a stunt initiated by Signal. If Signal would have tried to run these ads on Facebook, some of them would have been rejected as Facebook’s policy does not allow ads that disclose a user’s specific medical conditions – that is, if they have any – or sexual orientation.
In a statement, Signal’s head of growth and communications, Jun Harada, provided a misleading answer by saying that “no impressions were served,” and its ad account on Facebook has not been permanently deactivated.

This raises several questions, mainly because it is difficult to find out what exactly happened and it looks like Signal is attempting to manipulate the truth. What exactly is Signal trying to imply when it says that Facebook rejected its proposed ads?

This issue is important as trust is very valuable when it comes to a company’s relationship with the users of its product, particularly when the company builds a product that entirely revolves around the premise of protecting user data and privacy. If it is confirmed that Signal is willing to mislead people simply to have positive public relations, this will definitely – and rightfully – create some doubt in the mind of users.